Neil Gresham´s Take On Dave MacLeod´s Take On Indian Face

by Mick Ryan Neil Gresham Neil Gresham is one of three people to have led Johnny Dawes´s Indian Face E9 6c on Cloggy. In 1996, Neil and Nick Dixon both fell under the route´s spell and made the long awaited repeat ascents, Neil saying that, “it is without doubt, the most scared I´ve ever been!” Last week, Dave Macleod top roped the route but for his own good reasons didn´t go for the lead. He wrote on his blog, ” The climbing wasn?t very technical, just standing up on many very small toe edges for 100 feet. You can take both your hands off on any move on the whole thing, but it?s still super thin on the toes. My feet hurt! Foot cramp was putting me off at first, but then later when I thought about leading the route, I realised that the only thing that would make me fall off would be the snappy nature of the some of the footholds or one of my feet randomly skidding. Both were relatively likely and although the RP protection was not nearly as bad as I had read, there is still the possibility to die in a fall from the end of the hard part. So I sacked it and went in search of something more motivating to climb.” The ensuing discussion (read it here) at, about Dave MacLeod´s comments liberated many viewpoints from the UK´s climbing community. We contacted Neil Gresham ( for his viewpoint. This is what Neil said, “It´s a shame Dave didn´t like the route as it is undoubtedly one of the finest I´ve ever encountered. It´s always hard to know if a climb can deserve so much hype, and I can see that Dave was just trying to be factual and perhaps to bring the route down off its pedestal a little. In doing so however, it has to be remembered that Indian Face does not fit the mould of a conventional ´headpoint-style´ route. It involves 30 metres of slab climbing which become increasingly thin and bold with height. The style is very ´on-off´, on smears and side-pulls, and it takes ages to climb it. Compared to other E9´s it doesn´t feel so hard on a top-rope, but I´ve never known a route to feel so different on the lead. Rope drag, foot cramp and the sheer awe of the surroundings play a huge part. Of course, as Dave rightly says, one of the reasons you might fall off is because a foot slips – but isn´t this the thrill of hard slab climbing? The assertion that the route is snappy is something that I disagree with, and I don´t recall Nick or Johnny making this comment either. However, this type of thing is all about ´feel´ and Dave´s view must clearly be considered. So does Indian Face really deserve the hype? Were the Demons that Redhead confronted just margins of his mind? Who can say? But in my opinion, the route remains one of the finest and scariest, and I would not want worthy suitors to be deterred. OK, I admit, that the odd side-pull creaks a bit, but then surely you´d hope so with a route like that! You can read the classic Johnny Dawes essay about his Indian Face experience, called, Not Necessarily About The Indian Face at